There are few things quite as soul destroying as losing one of your true wireless earbuds while traveling. Whether you have the Apple AirPods or a pair of cheap earphones, watching one of your precious buds roll away into a drain, or God forbid, off a platform and onto the train tracks is a nightmare none of us want to face.
However, an innovative new vacuum by Panasonic could be the answer to our collective prayers. It's been developed Japan’s JR East rail group to reunite worried owners with their stranded earbuds.
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As the Japan Times (opens in new tab) says, fallen items are usually collected by railway officials using a 'grabber' tool, which struggles to pick up such small items, particularly when lost in the gravel beneath the train tracks.
According to Engadget, the Panasonic vacuum gets around that by using "finger-sized tubes that can suction the buds out of tight spots, then hold them in place without sucking them into the vacuum body".
Lost buds and lost time
You may be wondering whether such a device is really necessary – after all, many audio manufacturers allow you replace missing earbuds (for a fee, of course).
However, lost earbuds are costing Japan's railway companies (and we daresay railways around the world) big in terms of time; as the Japan Times reports, there were about "950 cases of dropped earphones at 78 stations in the Tokyo area between July and September, making up one-quarter of all cases of dropped items".
And when you consider just how prompt the Japanese Shinkansen bullet trains are (with an average delay of just 24 seconds (opens in new tab)), the time searching for missing buds is a luxury many station officials just don't have.
To ensure their safety and the timely running of the trains, officials sometimes have to search after the last trains of the day, something a JR East official describes as "burdensome" – not to mention the very real danger that a member of public could launch themselves onto the tracks to retrieve their missing earbud.
Of course, there are ways to prevent earbud loss. The first is to ensure your true wireless earbuds are fitted snugly into your ear (try shaking your head a little to see if they can become easily dislodged), and adjusting the eartip size until you find your perfect fit.
Certain design features can also enhance fit, including earfins and earhooks, as seen on models like the Beats Powerbeats Pro.
If you're really worried about losing an earbud, you might consider opting for a pair of neckbuds, which are connected to each other via c able that sits around your neck, while maintaining a wireless connection with your listening device.
If all else fails, you could always buy a super cheap pair of wireless earbuds for commuting in the Black Friday sales – we'll be covering all the Black Friday headphone deals we can find, which have already starting rolling in ahead of November 27.
If you do lose an earbud while waiting for your train, don't try vacuuming the train tracks yourself – we can't see railway staff looking too kindly upon your impromptu cleaning session.
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